Liars – Sisterworld

Well, isn’t this a nice surprise. A couple years ago when Liars was released, although a solid entry, it seemed that Liars had taken a transformation that seemed a lot friendly than their experimental masterpiece Drum’s Not Dead. While songs like “Plaster Casts of Everything” had quite a visceral edge to them, it seems they were finally turning into a commercially viable band, which after They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, such a prospect seemed almost impossible. The subject matter was lighter, the toner was easier, the songs were catchier. None of this is a bad things at all, however, sometimes a band takes the road that is expected (releasing a sequel album) and sometimes, just sometimes, they take another risk. And sometimes, that risk pays off. On Sisterworld, the band’s newest effort to be due this March, it pays in spades.

It’s been years since a post-punk band has sounded this inspired, this raw, and this intense. Liars have always been known as spiteful, and on Sisterworld, their gnashing teeth have never looked bloodier. While their debut They Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top sounded like a sexual manifestation of their anger, much like their Dance-punk brethren Death From Above 1979, and They Were Wrong, So We Drowned like a serious cry for blood, their calmer, denser material off of Drum’s Not Dead is seen as the true peak of their creative use of callous. However, Sisterworld would object.

It seems that Liars have taken their game to a whole new level on this release, with the songs being more open, yet all the more unsettling. The subject matter and lyrics are darker than they’ve ever been (which for Liars is saying a lot), the songs have never sounded more malicious, and when the fuzz hits, it hits hard. “Scissor” is the perfect opener, with a foggy atmosphere, vocal harmonies, repeating violin and piano lines, and Angus Andrew softly espousing his tale of scissors and bodies in parking lots. The chorus lets loose a fuzzy riff, which just busts the song into another level. “No Barrier Fun” is a catchy, brooding mix of stick-heavy drums, bass thump, and a haunting, repeating violin line that give the song a hypnotic aura that sends it to a darker, more idiosyncratic place.

“Here Come All the People” is just plain creepy, with a carnival-esque mix of a repeating guitar chime, receding bassline, and surrounding whispers. When the song hits the climbing violin and piano, the song might as well just tell you that you’ve been transported to Wonderland, with Angus cracking a low, toothy smile while he tells you that he’s “counting victims one-by-one.” To put it bluntly, the songs have never been darker, deeper, or just plain better. While their output has always been terrific, especially on the post-punk bliss that is Drum’s Not Dead, Sisterworld is easily the strongest set of songs they’ve ever put out. There is never a dull moment, and while the first five tracks are easily the best, the backside contains classics like “Drop Dead” and “The Overachievers”.

However, if there was one song that truly shined on the album, it’d be it’s spastic centerpiece “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant”. The songs before it, save for the chorus of “Scissor” never really strayed into the energy that Liars is known for, so their reserved, under-stated nature make the caustic massacre of “Scarecrows” all the more immediate. Angus tells of a growing anger in the lines “Why’d you pass the bum on the street?/’Cause he bothered you,” and it fully blooms on the nest line: “Why’d you shoot the man with the gun?/’Cause he bothered you.” The jump is startling, and it only gets more startling with the rise into the crescendo of the song: “We should take the creeps out at night/Drag ’em incomplete by the ears/We should nail our thoughts to the wall/Stand ’em in the street with a gun/And then kill ’em all.” The last two lines are then repeated and yelled repeatedly, giving off all types of angry, malicious, violent imagery as the song winds down. It’s caustic, heavy, and absolutely arresting.

Angus has always been a great songwriter (Anything circa They Were Wrong/Drum’s Not Dead will prove as much), and on Sisterworld, he has become a much better storyteller. Where as They Were Wrong focused upon witch hunts and Drum’s Not Dead was a narrative masterpiece, the songs on Sisterworld are much more self-contained. Instead of a concept album or a simple collection of songs, these are all thematically connected; themes of murder, the seedy underbelly of society, chaotic scenery, disturbing imagery. All of these things go to make a song set that is steeped in creep, and thick with a malicious, yet ever-catchy atmosphere, especially on tracks like “Proud Evolution”.

A band like Liars doesn’t come around often. They’re a band that sheds the skin they grew previously without a second thought, constantly shifting their paradigm. Experimentation is second-nature to them, and where it separated fans on previously (They Were Wrong, So We Drowned), united them (Drum’s Not Dead), and even pleased them (Liars), on this release, it seems that their doing everything in their path to get you to shut up and pay attention. They’ve done all they can to make this album sound almost nothing like their previous output, yet completely idiosyncratic, and they’ve succeeded. The album is rewarding on so many levels, whether it’s the atmospheric additions they’ve made to their instrumental palette, the advancement of Andrew Angus as a songwriter (He’s no Nick Cave, but he’s getting there), the perfect mixing, or the subtle inhumanity and brutality; Liars have struck gold for a second time, and they dug all the way to Hell to get there. They’re just playing it’s soundtrack, in all it’s cacophony.

Score: A

by Trevor “I wonder where Twisted Sisterworld is” Johnson

1 Comment

  1. Reviews Update! « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Liars – Sisterworld […]

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